Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Establishing Vision

As he passed by the Sea of Galilee, he saw Simon and his brother Andrew casting their nets into the sea; they were fishermen. Jesus said to them, “Come after me, and I will make you fishers of men.” Then they abandoned their nets and followed him. He walked along a little farther and saw James, the son of Zebedee, and his brother John. They too were in a boat mending their nets. Then he called them. So they left their father Zebedee in the boat along with the hired men and followed him.

Mark 1: 16-20

Jesus’ words tend to have an unorthodox effect on those to whom He is speaking.  In today’s reading, Jesus tells His first disciples in no extraordinary way that they would be “fishers of men” if they were to follow Him.  Such words must have been somewhat confusing to these first century fishermen, let alone for us in today’s world.

The truth is it isn’t what He said that made them react the way they did, it was how He said it.  The voice of Jesus rang into the ears of Peter, Andrew, James and John, but the vibrations touched their souls when He said, “Come, I will make you fishers of men.”  With such confidence and calmness, Jesus offered to them a way of life that involved not only mystery, but also vision.  In the back of their minds they knew that this loner on the shore knew what He was talking about, and they needed to follow Him.

Our students will recognize very quickly if we, like Jesus, have a vision for them.  It is of great importance that we develop this vision, then speak and act with great confidence in our abilities to teach them this vision.  Like Jesus, we must emit an aura of peaceful confidence that touches the souls of our students to the point that they will know that if they follow us, they will be successful regardless of how mysterious or difficult the path may be.

Today, let’s take a few moments before teaching and decide what our vision is for our students.  By the end of the year, what do we want them to have accomplished?  What expectations will we set to make sure they become successful not only in our classroom, but in their other classrooms after they leave us? What individual goals do they have for themselves?

When we implement our vision into the hearts of our students and unify our efforts with theirs, we too will be a “fishers of men,” just like Jesus in today’s reading.

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Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- “Jesus with skin on”

After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God: “This is the time of fulfillment. The kingdom of God is at hand. Repent, and believe in the gospel.”

Mark 1: 14-15

In today’s Gospel reading, Jesus begins His ministry in Galilee.  Before He starts, however, John the Baptist is arrested for his “outlandish” prophesies and proclamation of repentance.  How very strange that, after John’s arrest, Jesus travels on and continues the same gospel message of repentance.  Where John left off, Jesus continues on.

On our first day of school, we made the connection with John the Baptist in that we were given the task to “make straight Jesus’ paths,” and “prepare the way of the Lord.”  We then retreated to the desert of ourselves and looked deep inside to prepare the way of the Lord into not only our hearts, but the hearts of our students as well.

Today, following the example of John the Baptist, we sacrifice ourselves for the Lord’s sake and allow Him to pick up where we left off.  From this moment on, although we are present in the classroom, it is Jesus who will guide our souls in every decision we make if we allow Him to do so.  We must abandon our own plans and trust in His.

Allow the following story to illustrate.

Once day, a mother took her child by the hand and led her into her room.  The child was both excited and afraid to find that, in the place of her old crib, there was a new bed with covers decorated with beams of sunshine and clouds.  Her mother told her that she was a big girl now and that she would not need a crib.  Tonight, this little girl would sleep in her big-girl bed.

After tucking her daughter in, the mother walked halfway down the hall and waited.  Knowing her daughter, she suspected that she might have difficulty falling asleep in her big-girl bed.  Sure enough, no more than 5 minutes later, her daughter called for her mother.

“Mommy?  I’m scared.”

The mother did not want to intervene.  She wanted to instill on her daughter a great faith in God rather than a great faith in her mother.  So she replied, “It is fine, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.  Do not be afraid.”

Her daughter did not speak for a while.  The mother felt that her solution had worked and that her daughter had truly put her faith in Jesus to protect her.  A few minutes later, however, the voice of her daughter came calling out once again.

“Mommy, I’m scared.”

The mother once again replied, “Don’t be afraid, honey.  Ask Jesus to protect you.”

This time, the daughter answered without hesitation, “Mommy, I already did.  But I need Jesus with skin on!”

With great humility, the mother walked back into her daughter’s room and sat next to her daughter.  She then hugged her until she fell asleep in her arms.  While she lay there, she reflected on how honored she was to be “Jesus with skin on” for her daughter.    

In our classrooms today, let’s imitate the example of Jesus.  Let’s be “Jesus with skin on” for our students.  Let’s lead by example, with integrity, justice and most importantly with great love.  There is no better way to teach the Gospel.


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Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Getting to Know Our Students

At once the Spirit drove him out into the desert, and he remained in the desert for forty days, tempted by Satan. He was among wild beasts, and the angels ministered to him.

Mark 1: 12-13

One of the behaviors that God has allowed us to understand through the study of psychology is that, when confronted with something new or dangerous, our animal instincts kick in and the “beast” within us will either “fight or flight.”   Our students will do the same because it is imbedded in their human nature to do so.  This explains why during our first moments together some of our students naturally hide their true selves behind the mask of their own defense systems.  In thinking about how they will survive in their new surroundings, they go into “fight” or “flight” mode.

Jesus was tempted by Satan beyond the norms of all human temptation to choose the worldly promises that Satan offered.  Jesus could have easily “fought” or “flew” away, but He stayed and overcame the temptations of the devil.  Jesus prevailed because He wore no masks.  He had no reason to defend Himself.  He knew He was God’s Son.  The victory was already His.

We too will be tempted to hide our true souls and sacrifice it for the “beastly” qualities of our human nature- anger, disorganization, inconsistency, and self-love.  If we look into our souls and find the qualities that God placed in us when He gave us “dominion over the beasts,” (Genesis 2) we will find faith, intellect, hope and love.   With these gifts, we wear no masks; we have no reason to because we know we are God’s sons and daughters.  We share in the same victory of Jesus.

After watching us demonstrate these virtues, our students begin to do the same.  They lower their natural defenses and begin to open themselves up, some sooner than others.

God has called us to be more than just mere animals, He has called us to be both teachers and students and at the same time His sons and daughters.  How beastly a world it would be if we treated each other otherwise!

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Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- Readying the Soul for Teaching

 It happened in those days that Jesus came from Nazareth of Galilee and was baptized in the Jordan by John. On coming up out of the water he saw the heavens being torn open and the Spirit, like a dove, descending upon him. And a voice came from the heavens, “You are my beloved Son; with you I am well pleased.”

Mark 1:  9-11

When we are baptized, we are initiated into God’s family.  Through this ceremony, we repent from sin and acknowledge God as our spiritual Father.  As a result, we are considered sons and daughters of God.

Jesus had absolutely no reason to be baptized under the context of repentance by which John the Baptist preached.  What would the Son of God in His perfection need to repent from?  Jesus, in fact, was baptized for other reasons- one of which was to ready His soul for the mission that was ahead of Him.  That’s why it was so important that He be cleansed by the waters of the Jordan.  For it was then that the heavens were “torn open” and “the Spirit descended upon Him like a dove.”  His humanity and the Spirit of God became one thing.  His soul was now ready for His mission.

We too, have been given a mission inside our classrooms.  In fact, we have been given many missions ranging from the different subjects that we teach, committees that we are a part of, after school activities we partake in, etc.  With these among others, we are given the mission of educating souls through the use of textbooks, worksheets, activities, experiments, and management.  Our mission is to teach the Gospel (and our subjects) in the same way Jesus did- by example.

For that reason we too should follow the example of Jesus and ready ourselves in the baptismal waters of our faith.  By recognizing His presence early and often throughout our day, He will respond to us in the same way He responded to Jesus, “You are my beloved son/daughter, with you I am well pleased.”

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Teach Me to Teach, Jesus- The Joyful Beginning

Today begins a new exercise I’d like you to join me in.  I love teaching and I know many of you do too.  Whether you are homeschooling your children, teaching catechism at your parish, or educating the future of the world in your private or public school classrooms, you’ll want to check back here every Thursday.

Each week, to celebrate the Luminous mysteries of the Holy Rosary (which I consider to correlate most with the educator’s vocation.  Think about it… Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration, light bulbs turning on over the Apostles and our students’ heads…), I will publish one of Jesus’ teaching strategies for us educators to use in our classrooms and homes.  I’m dubbing it “Teach Me to Teach, Jesus”.


The Joyful Beginning

The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ [the Son of God].

As it is written in Isaiah the prophet:

“Behold, I am sending my messenger ahead of you;

he will prepare your way.

A voice of one crying out in the desert:

‘Prepare the way of the Lord,

make straight his paths.'”

John [the] Baptist appeared in the desert proclaiming a baptism of repentance for the forgiveness of sins. People of the whole Judean countryside and all the inhabitants of Jerusalem were going out to him and were being baptized by him in the Jordan River as they acknowledged their sins. John was clothed in camel’s hair, with a leather belt around his waist. He fed on locusts and wild honey. And this is what he proclaimed: “One mightier than I is coming after me. I am not worthy to stoop and loosen the thongs of his sandals. I have baptized you with water; he will baptize you with the holy Spirit.”

Mark 1: 1-8

Today is our first day of the school year and we will surely be anxious to meet our students and begin our planning.  Today’s gospel reminds us of two specific things that go hand-in-hand with our excitement:

  1. Teaching can be done effectively just as John was able to preach repentance and forgiveness of sins with some success.
  2. Teaching can be done more effectively with the help of the holy Spirit who uses us as an instrument to “prepare the way of the Lord.”

“The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ,” takes full precedent on this day, which marks the beginning of our vocation as “Teacher.”  Today, we not only are teachers of worldly subject matter, but we also become God’s servants who have been sent to prepare His way, just like John the Baptist, and to preach the Gospel message, just like Jesus Christ.

Our first step is to be joyful for the arrival of our students and even more joyful for the arrival of holy Spirit into our classrooms.  When these are mixed with the willingness of a Christian teacher, miracles are sure to happen.

Like this post?  Want to have one like it every time you get ready to teach? Download 180 of them right now and be set for the rest of the school year, or buy the paperback.